Fifteen years ago, ago I attended seminary and simultaneously interned at a large church in San Diego. During this time, I saw the power of storytelling dramatically played out! This small event made an enormous impact on me, as I vividly remember it many years later. One evening, our children’s pastor–who also happens to be one of the most skilled communicators I know–arrived at our Saturday evening service later than usual. He showed up wearing dark sunglasses, and was playfully teased by a number of children’s ministry volunteers, who asked, “Who are you trying to hide from?” Instead of responding, Pastor pulled down his sunglasses to reveal a red, swollen eye.
Pastor explained that he had contracted pink-eye earlier in the week. Although the doctor said he was no longer contagious, signs of the infection remained visible. Pastor stated matter-of-factly that he planned to tell the kids right away, so as not to get asked, “What’s wrong with your eye?” over and over again.
Our children’s service began as usual. It began with a team game, followed by a time of worship. Next, Pastor took the stage. He was still sporting his sunglasses. Pastor immediately drew the room full of kids into his story by stating that there was something gross that he wanted to show them. Pastor used big words, like “conjunctivitis,” and then took his story to the kids level, explaining that this is a fancy term for pink-eye. The room–packed tightly with well over fifty children–sat in complete silence. Every ear was tuned-in to the story.
But Pastor didn’t stop there. He explained the treatment process, which consisted of putting in eye-drops a few times a day. He shared how the drops didn’t hurt–except for the time that he put them in too quickly and accidentally jammed the bottle into his eye. Pastor’s pink-eye story took a few minutes for him to tell. It was personal, filled with humor, and ended with dramatic flair. Pastor looked at his watch and casually stated that it was time for his next dose of eye-drops. He asked the children if they wanted to watch, carefully removed the bottle from his jacket pocket, and lifted it toward his eye. The entire room rose to their feet. Those in the back row complained that they couldn’t see, and Pastor had to reposition himself before administering the eye-drops. That is the power of story!
The Power of Story
Personal stories are powerful. There is something intriguing, mysterious, and enticing about the lives of others. This is why memoirs, reality television, and blogs are so popular. People want to know about the lives of other people. And not just the big stuff. They are curious about the minute details too.
Blogging began in the mid-1990s, though there is no definitive starting point that I can find. Between 1983-1993, moderated newsgroups were used to share personal thoughts, opinions, and stories. In 1994, the power of story was taken to the next level when a number of writers began posting online diaries. Then, on December 17, 1997, Jorn Barger coined the term “weblog.” Two years later, a man by the name of Peter Merholz, jokingly broke the word into the phrase “we blog,” and it caught on. People began using the word “blog” as both a noun (to describe their site) and a verb (to describe what they did).
Blogging began with a slow start and quickly snowballed. By 2008 it was so popular that it was estimated that a new blog was born every second, of every hour, of every day. Now that is a lot of blogs and a lot of stories!
Undoubtedly, people are interested in the lives of others. [Tweet “Good bloggers provide useful information. The best bloggers share their lives too!”] What began as a small group of online journals, has grown, morphed, and exploded in popularity. The important thing to remember is that at its roots, blogging is all about the power of telling a great story. Not a dramatic story. Not an extraordinary story. But simple, every day, relatable stories.
Returning to the Power of Story
Today, I am finishing up my book Ten Great Ideas for Authors. Research for this new book led me to explore the history of blogging. My intention in writing this book was to provide a short e-booklet, filled with simple writing prompts, that would help bloggers pull out of a slump and share their stories. What I had planned to be a 30-page booklet quickly took on a life of its own, and is approaching 100 pages length! Although it’s not a massive book by any means, it is still a greater project than I intended. Because this book contains much more than a list of writing prompts, I may need to go back and change the title before it is published.
However, even if the title does change, the thesis will remain the same. [Tweet “The best bloggers don’t simply impart information, they also tell their story!”] Our stories matter. Blogging began with a tiny group of people, who began sharing their lives with the world. Fifteen years ago, I watched our children’s pastor bring a packed room to their feet, as he recounted his recovery from pink-eye. Our stories don’t have to be extraordinary, to be interesting.
Continuing the Story Conversation
For me, learning about the history of blogging is a reminder that our story matters, and to not only impart helpful information but also to share my life too. Ten Great Ideas for Authors, my goal is to provide tips, tools, and strategies that will help writers share their stories with the world. As I’m approaching the conclusion of this book, I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this. What are you doing to add your life and your story to your blog posts? How do you balance sharing your story and sharing useful information in the blog posts that you write? I look forward to continuing the conversation in the comments below!
For more writing ideas, check out our highly-personalized, text-based coaching. As your writing coach, I’ll pull back the curtain and show you all of my favorite blogging resources. You can also check out my book Ten Great Ideas for Authors, where you will discover creative writing prompts and strategies to jump-start your author journey. I truly believe you are only one great idea away from writing success!